TRIGGER WARNING: Please be aware that I use humor in my posts as a way to create a space for healing, not to make light of pain, trauma or death. If your heart is too heavy to receive humor at this time given the recent tragedies, please respect your feelings and pause before reading this post.
I was planning my post about “Love Spaces” in preparation for my weekly-ish blog a couple of weeks ago. However, on January 27th, 41-year old Kobe Bean Bryant, his 13-year old daughter Gianna Bryant; John Altobelli, 56; Keri Altobelli, 46; Alyssa Altobelli,13; Christina Mauser, 38; Ara Zobayan, 50; Sarah Chester, 45, and Payton Chester, 13 died in a helicopter crash. I felt the need to pause and reflect. Instead, and in recognition of the discourse that is taking place around a clip of Gayle King’s interview of Basketball Great Lisa Leslie and Lisa’s memories of her dear friend; I feel the need to write something on canceling the cancellation of forgiveness.
Admittedly, my forgiveness muscle is not well developed. It’s taken me quite some time to forgive family members for the pain they have lived through and passed on to me. Forgiving my ex-husband and myself for the emotional toxicity we created and passed off as a loving, power-couple is taking a lot of work as well. I wrote in a recent social media post that people are complex and so are the relationships we create. The same person that brings forth thoughts of tenderness and love to one person, may, at the exact same moment, bring about feelings of rage, hatred, and emotional distress to someone else.
The complexities of us. These are the realities of Humanity’s Cup.
We can be both destined and destructive within the blink of a false eyelash. We make the best choices we can and make better choices as we learn from our mistakes. We hope and pray that our lifelong-learning will take us well into our 70s, 80s or older. However, the rhythm of Life – Death has not signed off on us having an extended play, so we have to work with the time we have been given. We go about our lives, while those we harm (unintentionally or intentionally) have to make sense of us and the pain we have caused.
One way people are taking back their power from those who have wronged them is by “Calling Out” and “Canceling” or discontinuing to invest, acknowledge or interact with those who have created dis-ease to an individual, a community or communities. Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a thought-provoking article in the New York Times about the role power and privilege play based on the voices who are engaged in the canceling process.
Caveat: I want to acknowledge the reality of the role that the jury of public opinion plays, especially given a justice system that is what it is on any given day. There are some crimes against humanity that make forgiveness inconceivable or even irresponsible. Public shaming, or third-party punishment is part of the fabric of this country and has served a purpose to bring a form of justice when justice has not adequately been served.
Personally, I’ve been canceling people for years in my head. You likely have done the same. I still have mini-boycotts of certain stores who have disrespected loved ones, or I will not buy a particular product or watch a certain sport because it has done harm to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and LGBTQIA + (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersexual, Asexual and allies) communities. I have also experienced being canceled and have seen my supporters cancel those who have done emotional harm to me.
Our respective tribe’s natural inclination is to protect those they hold dear. Totally understandable. If you are unsure of what I mean, I DARE you to post something negative on social media about Bey…I won’t even type her name out! They are watching…always watching!
We experience Cancel Culture in our workplaces, in politics, even in families (we are fresh off of the holiday season. You have likely canceled a few family members until November-December). Canceling is about holding people to a higher standard of morality (I like to call it a higher level of humanity). When they are destructive and do not meet our standard of “woke” or humanness we have designed, then we are done, or like the character Sophia Petrillo from the Golden Girl says “You’re dead to me!”
Except, there’s one pretty significant problem with canceling… no one will be left uncanceled (is that a word?). The Bible (Yup, I’m bringing it out) says “for ALL [emphasis added] have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23.” For my agnostic and atheist fam, all that means is that all humans have done wrong, caused harm, and have been destructive to themselves and others. That means you (if you have been blameless to this point, hold that thought). That means me. We mess up in private or in public and/or both and have to deal with the consequences sooner or later. Which makes the whole thing about forgiveness so damn complicated.
I cannot ignore the role fear has on whether forgiveness happens. Does forgiveness mean I let you off the hook so you can harm me again? If that is the case, then I’d rather not (this view of forgiveness has been one I have held for years). Or, does forgiveness mean I acknowledge that I have also done wrong, need time and space to get my *$#@ together and then come back to “shine bright like a diamond” ala Rhianna (when that album coming out, RiRi)? Then, I can see your wrong, create boundaries and expectations where you will not harm me again while you go get your *$#@ together? This is what forgiveness means to me now. Let me tell you, even with three concussions under my belt, forgetting harm done to me by others comes hard. However if I can do forgiveness in a way that allows us both to heal, grow and do better, then I can do that with a level of grace and sanity.
Here I come with these “What If’s!” Ask yourself these questions as you think of someone who may have harmed you:
- What if I hold divinity and destruction as the realities they are without being surprised when they show up?
- What if I can hold you responsible for your actions (or inaction…that is a totally different post) and not hold you in my head, heart, body or spirit causing me to relive the trauma day after day?
- What if I could leave people to their own journey without feeling the need to be prosecutor, judge, jury, bailiff, and warden?
- What if I could acknowledge my own shortcomings and the shortcomings of others, understanding there are parts of the story I may not ever know or fully understand?
I recognized this way of thinking and acting is easier said than done. Let’s give it a try and see how it goes.